Show 020: June 2009

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Striking Out
Meeting old friend Tom Palmer recently, he gave me two books from his Football Academy series Boys United and Striking Out, both by Puffin and out this year. You will remember Tom as an earlier interviewee on this podcast.

On a more personal note, I am terribly excited to have been selected with other poets [as part of the Leeds Lieder competition] to work with young composers from all over the country who will setting our poems to music and showcasing them on an evening in October. It will be fascinating to see what happens to your own words when they are put to music.

Book review

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

A teenage vampire novel recommended to me by Lucy and Emma Holliday set in Seattle where it doesn’t ever stop raining; it’s fun and exciting and has a great heroine Bella who falls in love with a teenage vampire at her high school. It has the kind of ending that makes you want to read the other three novels in this series so far.


This is an edited extract from an interview with broadcaster and novelist Libby Purves about her latest novel Shadow Child.

I was writing a lot of journalism for quite a long while. When I was on the Today programme I started writing for Punch, and then for the Times. I started writing fiction when I was forty. My first novel was Casting Off . The one before Shadow Child was Love Songs and Lies, where I wanted to write an intimate epic. I wanted to have fun telling the modern generation how scuzzy and debtfree our student lives were then.

Ideas come from my life in journalism, in fragments of character. It’s often counter-intuitive. When you feel as other people feel it’s a great charge and a visceral connection. You’re never thinking about the reader when you write; you’re thinking about the characters and the story, and the thing itself. It’s only when you start the editing process that you think about the reader. This book deals with grief and the remorselessness of ongoing life. It kept striking me that life keeps forcing itself onto you. In this story the death by accident of the son is dealt with differently by the father and the mother.

I lost my own son, but this is not an autobiographical novel. I have all this knowledge and I’d rather not have had it, and rather had remained stupid, but on the other hand it has to go somewhere.

The shades of British social life and attitudes rubbing up and against each other are always funny. My heroine has been living a refined life in a Norfolk village, and one of my favourite bits is where she first experiences Dalston.

The core thing in the novel is whether people are going to be able to reconcile themselves with the way other people live. It’s nice to mix people up.

Marian has come to a resolution at the end of this novel; our own journey is very different. Our son took his own life; this is very different from Marian’s experience. I have not resolved anything that I could put into any fiction yet.

Nicholas my son was very verbal, he was interested in words from a really early age. Both children were very expressive. Rose is very funny, and Nicholas is very mystical, loved Blake, was like him in that edge of disaster way. Eight of the poems in The Silence at the Song’s End have been used in a song cycle by young composer Joseph Phibbs. This feels more like a legacy than a memorial.

Poem of the month

This month's poem is an exercise in writing the unwritable...

Read A Small Death.